We travelled about 30 minutes outside of Prague to a small town with a beautiful historic church, great gulas, and even better people!
The gathering was to raise money for a small church group. There were about 30-40 people there, most of them were a bit older but still full of life and energy. I couldn’t tell at first, but after the pivo (beer) and slivovic (plum ‘vodka’, homemade strong liquor from fermented plums) started flowing, they started dancing the polka!
All of this awesome dancing was possible due to the great band.
…And soon they started to sing along:
It’s not that easy to tell from this picture, but the entire room was set up like an old fashioned pub. So there were picnic tables along the sides of the room where people sat and brought their delicious pastries and platters. And in the center, the dancing took place.
Oh…and did I mention the gulas??
Gulas is a traditional Czech dish made from different types of meat like beef and pork and often includes the liver and intestines. It is usually served with bread or knedliky (Czech dumplings). Needless to say, a nice cold glass of Pilsner washes it down very well!
The Gulas was made by Stanislav, who is a fireman AND a blacksmith. Here is his picture and his work!
Ok, I will confess, at some point during the festivities I too was pulled into the dancing mob and lived to tell the tale!
(can’t find the rotate image tool in the image workshop..but this is proof of my existence and adventure!)
Back to reggae in Prague…
Yesterday I was able to meet the legendary guitarist Jirka Charypar. He is one of the original members of the FIRST Czech reggae band, Babalet.
The group came together while communism was still around. This means that they had to play their songs in front of a panel of Judges in order to be approved as a band in each particular district of Prague. The judges watched how they played their instruments, what they played and what they said. If they felt that it was inappropriate then the band would not be approved and would not receive the necessary stamp to play in particular venues. This, obviously, was barrier between the band and freedom of speech. It was also very hard to access foreign music at the time. Black markets for music would open up every 3-4 months and would be busted by the cops shortly. However, in another month a new market would open up and give way for more exploration for artists and local musicians curious about the world around them.
Despite their censorship, Babalet continued to thrive and spread their message as well as introduce reggae music to Czechs. Most of the people who attended their concerts were looking for an alternative to Karel Gott and to the heavy rock n roll grunge scene. Reggae was a great option as it provided new, dynamic rythms and a positive uplifting message. These aspects were able to stir an interest in reggae music for the members of Babalet. They would sometimes refer to themselves as ‘The Learning School of Reggae Music in the Czech Republic.’ The songs they listened to talked about justice for the masses and descibred life under an oppressive regime. Even though Jiri did not live in a physical environment similar to the reggae artists he listened to, he was still able to relate to their frustrations and concerns due to a similar political environment.
Sadly, in 1987, Babalet’s lead singer and showman, Ales Drvota, died in a car crash. This marked the end of an epoch for Babalet and simultaneously openned a new chapter. Martin Tangwey, originally from Senegal, came along and became the band’s new lead singer. After this Babalet’s style changed to Afro-music and reggae, and they started to play with other emerging local reggae bands like Hypnotix.
According to Charypar, since he has been a part of the scene two major developments have occurred:
2. Technology of Music
Dj’s blend different musical styles and effectively expose people to new types of music. In today’s world, things have become more digitized and computer formatted so it’s easy to download a CD produced in Thailand all the way in California and vice versa. Computers and technology cut out the middle man and allow for easier transportation of new and diverse sounds.
My interview with Jiri was great and I look forward to meeting and talking to other artists, selectors, and producers.
Next week I will go to a reggae festival called Real Beat with headliner Buju Banton!